February 1, 2024

Six Questions to Ask When Choosing Proposal Automation Software

This is a guest post by our partner Loopio.

It’s the middle of the day, you and your team are hard at work on a number of different projects, then... BAM! Several new RFPs all hit at the same time. 

The clock is ticking, the race is on, and everyone springs into action. You start coordinating meetings and strategies, and your team begins pulling out your best proposal features to ensure winning responses on limited timeframes. 

If you’ve worked in the proposal-driven world long enough, you know this scenario. Winning contracts is the lifeblood of your organization, and winning the right contract can make the difference between staying in business or shutting it down. 

At Summit Strategy, we understand moments like these are key to your success. Having the right tools to capitalize is a game changer for businesses of all sizes. But how do you decide what tool is right for you and your organization?  

One of the first tools to consider should be proposal automation software. This can be a game changer for both “army of one” and enterprise proposal teams managing unruly content libraries - who often spend hours of wasted productivity digging through archived collateral, previous proposals, and simple file management tools that cannot keep pace. But whether this is your first time exploring options or your existing software needs an upgrade, there are key questions to consider. No matter what vendor you choose, understanding the most crucial elements will play a major role in your final direction. 

1. What key objectives and challenges is the software working to solve?

This seems like an obvious question, but it’s an important one. Will you use it to maintain your content library? Do you not have the time to respond to the RFPs in your pipeline? Is version control an issue? How many users will require access? How important is ease-of-use vs. features? Do you need to prioritize speed? Automation? Security? Integration with existing platforms (e.g., CRM, email, etc.). 

Any provider you consider will likely include the features necessary to address all of these. However, some prioritize certain features over others, so it’s important to establish which features are most important to you. 

2. Who is your client base?

This is part of your broader business and brand strategy, but does play a major role in the decision.  

Think about your primary and/or target clients. Are they in the private or public sector? Do they require narrative-based proposals? Or presentations? Are the solutions they require more capabilities-based? Or solution-based? What are their priorities? Research various software to determine which works best for these primary clients. 

All this leads to how you will manage your content. Do you respond to clients in different ways, based on lines of business or industry verticals? Often the biggest challenge is simply keeping content organized – this can quickly get out of control, mismanaged, disorganized, and frustrating for users without the right tools and people actively managing and updating the content.  

3. What's your target budget? And is that reasonable?

Your budget can serve two functions. It can clearly communicate your priorities, or it can serve as a filter for what is or is not possible. Do you need to report to product or marketing content owners on content usage, to help the company get a pulse on the market? Is the cost of full credentials too high, and ‘project contributors’ only need limited functionality? Do you need to integrate your proposal selection metrics into Salesforce, or other CRM opportunity records? 

First, establish the number of users who will be working with the software regularly. This should minimally include your proposal team, subject matter experts, and product owners.  

It’s also important to decide if you’ll want to level up only in certain areas or if you want a Cadillac plan from the start. Many software providers offer subscription tiers, so be sure to research if a higher tier enhances available features. You may need to spend more to access certain tools, even if you have a small team.  

4. How IT savvy is your user base?What support does the vendor provide without additional costs?

You started answering this question in identifying your user base; however, early adoption is key so evaluating your users’ technical acumen versus the loss of required features is key to ensure the software is adopted and makes your process more efficient from the onset. 

Consider your user base as three unique groups: 

  • Proposal Team: The power users constantly using and improving the workflows and leveraging the most advanced features within your tools.  
  • Subject Matter Experts: Act as your brain trust. They find a way to make facts and features digestible and relevant to a client’s problems, and often are too busy to learn how to leverage those features not integral to their day to day.  
  • Departmental Leads + Product Owners: They vet facts to ensure your library is accurate. 

Research which software is more advanced and those whose focus is heavily on the user experience. Know the level of customer service your organization requires and which option suits that need. 

Lastly, know what ongoing support and service looks like – the top vendors offer thought leadership, webinar trainings, on-demand training + guides, and even certification within their product to help power users continuously improve. 

5. How does your company plan to leverage / incorporate AI into the responses?

AI is getting a lot of airtime these days, and companies have strong and differing opinions. 

The biggest debates are around how companies will universally apply AI-type tools and what is and is not acceptable. The same applies to proposal automation software. Some softwares are heavy into AI plug-ins and others simply aren't equipped. 

Whether you need it or not, the best tools are already forward-thinking in this area. For example, their tool can generate answers to questions in your RFPs based entirely on the trusted information you already have in your content library.  

6. Am I ready to buy / implement?

Every organization has their own unique needs, so the answer of when to buy will have competing factors, such as:  

  • What's your timeframe?  
  • How long will implementation take?  
  • Are there significant fees up front?  
  • Are any ancillary tool investments necessary to optimize the selected tool? 
  • Do you have an internal executive sponsor that will advocate for this change? Will they ensure the investment is given the priority it needs to succeed and drive user adoption? 

Answering these questions could save you significant frustration from buying before your organization is ready. 

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’re now able to make a confident decision. However, now it’s time to ask how you can best set yourself up for success with your new system. You’ll need to ask: 

  • Is my current content library organized for migration? 
  • How often does my software need a wellness check? 
  • What’s the learning curve for my team? 
  • Are my response templates ready for immediate integration? 
  • Do we have the necessary resources to successfully integrate the software? 
  • Do you have an internal project manager that can lead the implementation? 

All of this can feel overwhelming, and understandably so. This is a major investment, both financially and via the assigned resources. This is where Summit Strategy comes in. Our experienced crew of proposal experts can provide real world insights and guidance on several platforms to drive support solutions from pre- through post-implementation. 

We’ve researched the industry leaders, so you don’t have to – Responsive, Loopio, Qvidian, and many other new and legacy platforms. 

And one vendor continues to rise to the top of the pack. Our platform of choice? Loopio. 

While competitors might offer valuable features, Loopio’s combination of advanced functionality positions it as a frontrunner for organizations seeking to optimize their pursuit process.  

  • Library: Loopio’s content library employes machine learning algorithms to analyze and categorize your content. This ensures users can easily find and reuse the most relevant and up-to-date content, reducing response times. While other solutions offer library features, Loopio’s sophisticated and dynamic capabilities result in less manual searching and a better experience for your team in populating the ‘low hanging fruit’ in a response - allowing you to focus your experts and product owners like never before. 
  • Automation + Collaboration: Loopio allows well-organized teams to automate repetitive tasks, while enabling collaboration and efficiency with limited SME availability. While other solutions support these ideals, Loopio’s focus on real-time collaboration sets it apart from competitors, ensuring a more synchronized and dynamic workflow. 
  • Integration: Loopio’s open API provides organizations with the most robust integration capabilities on the market. While other solutions offer integration, an open API offers your organization flexibility and adaptability with diverse tech stacks.  
  • Ease of use: Loopio prioritizes ease-of-use and simplicity, without compromising on robust features. The platform is designed intuitively to reduce the learning curve for inexperienced users, driving adoption across your teams. Other solutions focus on simple design + user interface, while not matching the ease of navigation, leading to a higher learning curve and sometimes, lower organizational adoption. 

Loopio provides an intuitive user experience designed to simplify and streamline the proposal process. Summit Strategy has been a long-time partner with Loopio, and we can be your guide to maximize this software for your business by: 

  • Optimizing system/platform environment  
  • Analyzing + auditing existing content and library structure 
  • Prepping content for implementation 
  • Creating, updating, and maintaining existing + new content 
  • Designing system-friendly response templates 
  • Developing proposals within Loopio 
  • Training users on pursuit best practices 

But don’t simply take our word for it, see why Loopio is viewed as the #1 Response Management Software in the industry with the Best Relationships and the Best Implementation teams.  

With the right tools and training in place, you will be prepared with your all-star team for the next time that long-awaited RFP hits your inbox. Still not sure where to go from here? Reach out and we’ll be happy to guide you towards the path to success. 

Joel Johnson

Joel lives in the details and is relentless in identifying + implementing forward thinking innovative solutions for our clients. He is an expert at implementing + optimizing proposal response software solutions like Loopio. Our clients see tremendous value through improved content review processes, streamlined responses timelines, and ultimately, more winning responses.

Previous Blog
Next Blog
April 29, 2024
From Clueless to Closing: Conquering Kickoff Meetings

Strategic Kickoff Mastery: Ensure thorough preparation, align team expectations, and set the stage for a successful proposal effort

Read More
March 6, 2024
The Secret Sauce of Success: Integrated Marketing + Proposals

Aligning for Impact + Growth By connecting these two, your marketing and proposal teams can complement each other, build up the other, and move your company forward.

Read More